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Government needs to address vet shortage at education level

Even though they know of this particular shortage, they will not increase the amount of funded seats

Letter in response to Dr. Gillian Wiley’s letter to Joe Sawchuk re: veterinary rotation.

Dear Dr. Wiley:

Thank you so much for your wonderful letter! I believe the general public needs to be enlightened as to the reasons for no after-hours emergency care here in Duncan. I would also like to further educate the public about where the blame actually lies: the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training, Minister Anne Kang, and preceding her, Melanie Mark.

Since 2018, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association has been trying to secure a meeting with these ministers to ask for funding for 20 additional B.C. seats at the University of Saskatchewan to the 20 which are currently available. They have met with silence. There are 140-plus students who qualify and apply each year to the university to fill the 20 seats. The Alberta government has kindly withdrawn its applicants from these seats and offered to train them in their own province in order to make available some of these 20 for other Canadian students. Presently, a few of these seats are funded by the Advanced Education, but those that are not are costing upwards of $70,000 per year for four years. For the students who cannot secure a seat, if they can afford it, some have chosen to seek their training in other countries. At this point, with the pandemic and the flooding, veterinarians have become extremely burned out trying to keep up. This is a market study done by Advanced Education: a labour market study conducted by the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training in 2019 indicated that B.C. would be short 100 veterinarians per year for each of the subsequent five years, culminating in a shortage of 500 veterinarians by 2024.

Even though they know of this particular shortage, they will not increase the amount of funded seats for qualified students. Once the amount of regular seats are filled, the rest are offered to our Canadian students at full tuition. Many are not able to come up with that money. At that point, these seats are offered to international students who come, take the training and usually return back to their own countries to practice. The average salary for a vet in Canada is just over $90,000 a year. An entry-level salary is just short of $80,000. Experienced vets can make just over $110,000, and a board-certified vet about $200,000 per year. Even though these are ‘only’ doctors for animals, they are still doctors and have to learn anatomy, chemistry, medications and perform operations. Approximately 70 per cent of the population in Canada are pet owners, many times with multiple pets. These animals provide comfort to and unconditional love to their caregivers and are extremely important. There are also farm animals who provide food for our population and also require a significant amount of care.

I could certainly elaborate more on this issue, but space does not allow. I urge everyone who has a pet or has ever had a pet to do some research into this and write letters to Minister Anne Kang at the Advanced Education and Skills Training office in Victoria. Squeaky wheels often get greased and if we are to make a change at all, more people need to speak out. I have been advocating since August 2021 and written many letters, three of which have gone to Minister Kang with only one reply. She does not see the necessity of more veterinarians and added funding for 20 more seats even though her office has done a labour market study showing the horrendous shortage.

Danette Schutte,